Amiga: 25 Years Later

The Machine That Wouldn't Die

Pundits may have begun predicting in 1986 that Commodore would give up on the Amiga, but the platform did evolve -- although not quickly, and not radically. In 1987, the A1000 was replaced by the Amiga 500 (which was much cheaper) and Amiga 2000. They were eventually succeeded by models such as the 3000, 4000, and 600; Commodore also introduced the CD32, a CD-ROM-equipped game console based on Amiga technology.

Except for the specialized market of video professionals, the company pretty much gave up on the notion that the Amiga was a business machine -- here's a later TV commercial that sort of positions the 500 as a super-powerful Commodore 64:

It really wasn't until the mid-1990s that Windows PCs and Macs began to catch up with the multimedia panache that the Amiga had displayed back in the Reagan administration. And by then, Commodore was terminally ill. In May of 1994, it went bankrupt and stopped making Amigas.

Which didn't mark the end of the Amiga: Its assets were bought by a German company called Escom, which hatched grandiose plans for the platform. It failed to realize them, and went bankrupt in 1996.

In 1997, direct-market PC giant Gateway acquired Amiga, hatched a different set of grandiose plans, failed to realize them, and gave up on its acquisition in 1999.

That was eleven years ago,

An Amiga 500, much like the one I owned.
and the Amiga still isn't dead. But if you can parse its recent history, you're paying better attention than I have. All I know is that it involves multiple companies promising Amiga hardware and software that never amounts to anything -- and that a company called A-Eon intends to release a new Amiga called the AmigaOne later this year.

Bottom line: The Amiga's quarter-century of existence includes nine bumpy years under Commodore ownership, and sixteen years of limbo under too many owners to count. The fact that people continue to think of it as a platform with a future is amazing. But I wouldn't wish its post-Commodore history on the junkiest computer in the world, let alone one that was once so full of potential. (And some of its classic games may be coming to the iPhone.)

My take: Maybe it's okay that the platform's period of viability was relatively short, and that it never became a blockbuster. I must confess that I gave up on my Amiga in 1991 and replaced it with a mundane PC clone. But we Amiga owners had a good time while it lasted -- and the memories make me smile even now.


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